City Committee Hopes Ads Shore Up Ailing Parking Revenue

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Downtown Raleigh visitors could soon see advertisements in the city’s parking decks, but they won’t see higher parking rates.

The City Council’s Budget and Economic Development Committee Tuesday approved two recommendations from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance aimed at increasing the city’s parking revenue. The full council still has to approve the changes.

The recommendations are to place advertisements within the city’s parking facilities and conduct an advertising campaign to increase the number of monthly accounts in the parking decks.

City officials are facing a possible $1.4 million parking shortfall next fiscal year. They say the economy, loss of monthly off-street parking contracts, low on-street parking revenue and the debt service are to blame. During the past two years, the city lost 489 monthly deck-parking accounts, each is worth $100 per month.

Last month, the Parking Department suggested 12 ways to correct the shortfall. The recommendations under consideration at the April 12 meeting include: charging for parking on the now free nights and weekends, changes to the city’s ordinance on car booting, adding a tax-intercept amendment to collect outstanding fines, possible DMV holds for unpaid citations and advertisement placement in the parking decks.

The committee approved most of the recommendations, except the nights and weekends parking fee, and the advertising program, which was put on hold pending further review from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

David Diaz, president and CEO of the DRA, expressed concern about how those changes might affect downtown visitors. Mayor Charles Meeker asked the DRA to conduct its own assessment of the parking recommendations.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance supported the Parking Department’s suggestion to place advertisements within parking facilities. Parking officials suggested the advertising program would be contracted out to a “national media company” as part of a one-year pilot program. Parking Administrator Gordon Dash said the advertising program “will not cost the city additional revenue” and gives the media contractor the task of finding advertising sponsors.

The program starts with three active advertisements in each of seven parking decks. City Manager Russell Allen estimated the program could generate about $24,000 to $70,000 per year for the city’s parking fund. The DRA has offered to assist the program with the designing and placement of the advertisements.

The committee also approved the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s offer to conduct a campaign aimed at increasing the number of monthly contracts in the city’s parking facilities. Diaz said they will research current parking accounts in conjunction with the parking administrator’s office. The DRA has offered to pay for the campaign and aims to have it instituted by year’s end.

Mayor Meeker suggested gearing some of those marketing efforts toward those who work the lunch shift at restaurants and utilize on-street parking, which might otherwise be used for restaurant customers. He also suggested possibly encouraging or requiring those workers to park in the decks.

Members of the Budget and Economic Development Committee were hesitant about approving a proposal that would charge construction companies for the use of parking spaces during long-term building projects or demolitions. The proposal calls for any project lasting three days or more that would utilize parking spaces to obtain a permit and pay a per-space, per-day fee, which would be equal to the highest daily parking rate set for city parking facilities times 125 percent.

City Manager Allen said the fee was “very, very reasonable” and allows “contractors to be able to have that kind of staging area right adjacent to their project downtown.”

“Otherwise they would have to lease space off-site, and it wouldn’t be as convenient, and they would have to pay for it,” he said.

Councilor Thomas Crowder expressed concern, stating that it would raise costs for construction companies and discourage construction efforts downtown. He suggested the construction itself would raise the tax base, which would eventually recoup any lost parking revenue.

Councilors also broached concerns about the definition of “long-term project.” While most of the committee suggested it be defined as any project longer than two weeks, Crowder suggested a longer time frame.

“I don’t think that two weeks is an extended period of time, but if you’re looking at six months to a year, or a couple of years like some of these major projects that you see downtown, then…that’s a burden on parking revenue,” he said.

The committee will revisit the construction parking ordinance at its next meeting in two weeks.

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